China changes the rules for its visas frequently. They also tend to apply different sets of rules depending on which visa office you use to make your application.
Several helpful readers have told us that lately their visa applications in the Hong Kong office were not even considered because they did not have a printed confirmation of accommodation for their whole stay, such as a hotel booking. For example, reader Marchin left this comment sharing their experience (thanks!)
“Arrived 0945 on a Tuesday and waited 2.5 hours to be told in 15 seconds by the immigration clerk I needed a confirmed hotel booking print out before he would even look at the application. Explained I was travelling with HK friends who were two-way permit holders and we didn’t know exactly when and where we were going to stay and he shrugged”
This used to be an enforced requirement in some China visa offices but not in Hong Kong. It seems that that may now have changed. We have accordingly updated our 2018 guide to getting a China visa in HK. Please post your own experience in the comments there or below to help other travellers.
In principle the hotel bookings you provide for your visa do not necessarily need to correlate to where you end up staying. Some travellers may therefore book refundable accommodation for purposes of proof only. Bear in mind that the Chinese government registers all hotel guests, so while some anomalies may be overlooked, if your hotel booking provided for visa purposes is totally different to where you actually stay, it could in theory at least be noticed by their vast monitoring apparatus.
If for some reason you cannot provide such proof, for example you want to travel without pre-booking accommodation or you plan to stay with a friend, you may find it easier to work through a visa agent than navigate the process yourself (we partner with Asia Visas).